Household Safety- Preventing Drowning
According to the Home Safety Council, drowning in the home environment occurs primarily in bath tubs and swimming pools. Around 80% of the victims are children under age 4. It is the leading cause of accidental death in children between the age 1-4 in United States. Three children die from drowning every day in the United States and most of these accidents are preventable.
High-risk areas in or around the home
- Bath tubs (accounts for 2/3 rds of drowning deaths at home)
- Swimming pools
- Wading pools
- Bucket filled with water
- Fish tank
- Hot tubs
- Landscape ponds
Drowning can happen in water which is 1 inch or more in depth. Parents should ensure that water buckets in the bathroom (i.e., bathing buckets or buckets with cleaning solution) should be left empty and be filled only during use. Bath tubs should be filled with water just before bringing the baby or toddler for bath. Otherwise, it should be kept empty. A baby or toddler should never be left alone in the bath tub filled with water even for a second.
Doorbells, phone rings, fire alarms, and screams from other children should not pull a bathtime supervisor away from a bathing toddler. If you must leave the bath tub area, wrap the child in a towel and take him/her with you!
All required stuffs for bath (towel, soap, dress, nappy) should be kept ready before bringing the child for bath. Babies and toddlers should not be left under the supervision of older kids in the bath tub. Older children may not be able to save a baby or toddler when she slips or topples into the bath tub. Older children are very distractable and may react inappropriately in the case of an emergency. For example, they may come looking for a parent instead of simply lifting a toddler out of the water. A bath seat with belt or other supporting devices for bath are never considered adequate safety devices by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
The baby or toddler can be covered with a towel and be carried when a parent requires to leave the bathroom to answer the door or phone while giving bath to a child. It is dangerous to leave the child in the bath tub even for a second. Once the bath is complete and the child is dried and dressed, he/she should be left in the play pen or crib and then ensured that the bath tub and bucket filled with water are emptied.
Toilets are considered less risky for drowning than bath tubs but precautions should be taken. The CPSC states that a toddler or a baby child can topple into a unclosed toilet headfirst and can drown. It is best to lock the toilet with the toilet lid locking system. Parents should also ensure that bath room doors are child-safety locked all the time and the same practice taught to older children at home. Older children should be instructed about drowning hazards, so that they do not handle babies and toddlers in the bathroom, or near ponds or pools at home.
Water Safety outside home
Parents should ensure that wading pools, buckets or containers filled with water in the garden, yard or outside the house remain empty when not directly supervised. Once a wading pool is used, water should be emptied immediately. Some other considerations are listed below:
Rain water retention ponds - may fill with water intermittently.
Creeks - may flood during rainstorms
Water buckets for cleaning windows, cars, RV's, boats, etc. - any liquid can lead to drowning. Cleaning fluids may pose a higher risk for lung injury (if inhaled) and poisoning (if swallowed)
Empty buckets or other containers - may fill with rainwater
Research has found that fencing around swimming pools lowers the risk of drowning. The fencing should surround only the pool and should have secure self-latching gates. This significantly reduces children to get near the pools when alone by themselves. Children should be warned not to get into pools or near pools without an adult accompanying them. Parents should never consider that swimming vests, rings, rafts and water wings are safe for kids to be left alone in pools. Toys, balls and other play stuffs in water should not left in pools. These can attract kids to try to fetch them on their own which is a serious hazard for drowning. If there are ladders installed within the pool, it is ideal to have them removed when the pool is not in use.
Fish tanksFish tanks should not be kept at ground level or a lower level where toddlers or younger children can topple into them. Furniture should be arranged in a way that does not allow a child to climb up and over the edge of a fish tank.
A 5 gallon bucket of water used for household cleaning can also become a threat for toddlers to topple and fall headfirst. When children fall headfirst, it becomes difficult for them to get up or free themselves, even in shallow water.
Sinks filled with water can be equally hazardous. Other liquids stored in buckets or containers also form possible drowning hazard. Spas and hot tubs pose a drowning hazard too. The solar cover should never be considered a safety cover. It is possible for a baby or toddler to slip through it as the cover will not strong enough to prevent a child from immersing into water. Another risk is that the solar cover will hide a drowning child. A reliable safety cover should be used to cover a spa or hot tub and the doors of spa or hot tub should always be locked.
A note for parents
Apart from teaching older kids the potential hazards for drowning, they should also be warned not to give baths to babies or toddlers in the absence of adults. Older kids should be cautioned not to leave bathroom doors open or take babies and toddlers into the bathroom by themselves. They should be strictly warned not to play in wading pools or landscape ponds without adult supervision.
It is best for all parents to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation); it is a life saver! CPR courses are readily available at many hospitals, universities, and colleges. If the baby or toddler is left with a baby sitter, parents should ensure that she is certified in administering CPR. Parents should also make sure that she is aware of drowning hazards and bath safety guidelines. If parents do not wish that the baby sitter give the baby or toddler a bath, they should state this specifically to the babysitter with justified reasons. Giving the babysitter a 'Do's and Dont's' list is the best way help her adhere to household safety rules.
1. Home Safety Council, 2010, Drowning,
2. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2010, Prevent Child In-Home Drowning Deaths
3. Pubmed Central, 2007, Prevention of Injuries at home: Pool Fencing for Preventing Drowning in Children,
Last Updated (Wednesday, 09 February 2011 15:14)